George Washington University will arm on-campus police officers despite protests from some students and faculty members.
The school said it will move forward with the “George Washington Police Department Arming Plan” which will be implemented through five phases.
“Arming is an important part of a comprehensive public safety plan, in part because of rising gun violence nationally and the need for GWPD supervisory officers—who are most familiar with GW’s campuses, community and culture—to respond to life-threatening emergencies,” the university said in a statement. “This is particularly crucial in the university’s densely populated setting and during incidents when response time is critical.”
Initially, executive supervisory officers Chief James Tate and Captain Gabe Mullinax will be the only officers to carry guns on the GW campuses in Washington, D.C. during the 2023-2024 academic year. Other officers will be armed “in phases as requirements are met and community input is incorporated.”
The school has revised its Use of Force Policy to more definitively define the circumstances under which force is considered permissible. Chokehold and other forms of breathing restriction are prohibited.
“In order to be armed, all supervisors will complete implicit bias training every semester; de-escalation training once per month; mental health response training three times per year; firearms qualification three times per year (whereas D.C. requires once per year); and virtual reality simulator training once per month,” the school added. “Supervisors will also receive new background investigations and psychological evaluations prior to arming, and any armed supervisors new to GW will undergo a pre-arming period to ensure they understand GW’s campus and community before arming.”
After the plan was announced in April, roughly 150 students gathered outside the home of GWU’s President Mark S. Wrighton to protest. The demonstrators carried signs reading “We keep us safe” and “Guns ≠ public safety.”
A group of 20 student groups co-signed a letter objecting to the Board of Trustees’ decision to permit the plan.
“The school is presenting this as a solution for school shootings, but we know that arming the police only creates more danger. Arming GWPD is a fundamental threat to black and brown students and the larger DC area,” stated the letter which was signed by GW Black Defiance, GW Muslim Students Association, the Mexican Students Association at GWU, the GW College Democrats, the GW Reproductive Autonomy and Gender Equity and the GW American Society of Civil Engineers.
“Arming campus police is also an existential threat to members of the surrounding community,” the groups added. “We demand that GW reverse its decision to arm GWPD… We demand the removal of racist systems of violent repression from our campus.”
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